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The Top Ten Family Dog Breeds
When choosing a dog for your family, there are more important things to consider than just looks. Ease of training, compatibility with children, dominance traits and aggression should be your top priorities. I have compiled this list based on the following:
– Which breeds do well being left alone at home?
– Overall intelligence
– Amount of exercise required
– Attitudes with children, strangers and other animals
– Health problems
– My personal experience
– Typical breed standards
– The results of the American Temperament Test
This breed is the classic lap-dog. They come from the Bichon Frize and Maltese line but are more compatible with children. They are generally well behaved, loyal, quiet and submissive. They are easy to train, hypoallergenic and do not shed. They can weigh between 8-13 kg and live about 14 years. They are ideal for apartment living and are content with indoor exercise. They are not very athletic, so they need an easy going family. They are a long-haired breed, so the “puppy cut” is easier to maintain (as seen in the photo). If you are looking for an adorable, solid, durable puppy, the Havanese is for you.
Boston Terriers are little bundles of joy. They live to learn, love people of all ages, are easy to groom and need little exercise. They are ideal for indoor living. They weigh from 10-20 kg and live up to 15 years. They get along well with other pets and like to be where the action is. Their coats are shiny and short, so they are very easy to groom, but they do shed. Bostons have very short muzzles, so they breathe heavily, snort or snort. Due to difficulties with birth (often by C-section), I recommend that you find your Boston Terrier at a local rescue rather than a breeder. There are several Bostons available for adoption on petfinder.com.
The Cockapoo is one of my favorite breeds because even though they are small, they are quite athletic. The Cocker Spaniel features a rugged and durable quality and a love of sports – frisbee, pulling, swimming and hunting (to name a few). The Poodle’s characteristics lend it a dignified and intelligent demeanor unlike other small breeds. Cockapoos are not nervous or mischievous, but they do best when they are around people all day. They are attentive to their masters, very easy to train and love children and other pets. They are also hypoallergenic and non-shedding. They can weigh anywhere from 6 to 25 pounds, depending on whether the parent poodle was a toy or a miniature poodle. Life expectancy is about 14 years. They come in many colors and their coats can be shaggy or curly. Some breeders dock their tails, but ask yours not to – they have the most beautiful plume-like tails!
Miniature Australian Shepherd
Australians are extremely intelligent and devoted to their bosses. They do best with a medium to large yard and an active family. Because they are herding dogs, they need plenty of exercise, otherwise they become bored, hyperactive and destructive. About two hours of rigorous exercise a day is ideal. They can weigh from 20 to 40 kg and live about 13 years. They are a beautiful breed, come in a variety of colors and can sometimes have bright blue eyes. Their coat is thick and sheds all year round, so daily brushing is recommended. Their coat is insulating so they don’t need to be shaved – although you can give them a short ‘puppy cut’ during the warmer months. They are usually a quiet breed but can bark at strangers. Unless properly socialized as puppies, most Australians are wary of strangers and visitors.
Keeshondens are energetic and lively dogs that are devoted family companions. Although they are not as intelligent as other breeds, they can be well trained with consistent, firm discipline and plenty of positive reinforcement. If you like the looks of Huskies and Akitas, the Keeshond is a better choice for kids. They weigh 30 to 60 kg and live about 13 years. They do well indoors but need about an hour of exercise a day. A small yard is enough with this breed. They like to “smile” at people and when they get excited, they make comical circles. Because of their thick coat, they are moderate shedders and do best in colder climates. If they are in a warm climate, they can be given a “puppy cut” during the warm months. Daily brushing is ideal. They are great watchdogs, so they tend to bark often, which can upset nearby neighbors.
American Pit Bull Terrier
The Pit Bull is the most controversial breed of our time and you might be wondering why this breed would appear on my list. But in the hands of a responsible owner, I believe they can be one of the best family breeds out there. They are loving, fun, smart and loyal to the end. As puppies, they can be aggressive towards other dogs or small animals, but this can be easily and quickly trained by them. Pit Bulls are so well maintained that they are often chosen as service, rescue or police dogs. Although their short coat is easy to maintain, they do shed. They can be a little clumsy indoors, but regular exercise (about an hour a day) and appropriate weight can reduce this. Pit bulls are prone to being overweight, so don’t overfeed. They can weigh between 30 and 60 kilograms and live about 12 years. It is important to train a Pit Bull to walk properly on a leash at a young age or it can become very difficult to walk when it is older and stronger.
Collie (rough or smooth coat)
The Collie is another great family companion. Like the Australian Shepherd above, they are a herding breed, so they are extremely intelligent. Eager to please, pet and protect, they are loyal and dignified pets. They weigh 50 to 75 kg and live about 15 years. They make great watchdogs and are natural babysitters for the children in the family. Rough Coated Collies don’t need to be trimmed – they do well in the warmer months as their coat acts as an insulator against the heat. Although they can overheat if exercised a lot during the hot months. Smooth Coated Collies have a shorter coat, so they do well in any climate. Both are average droppers. Colies need about two hours of exercise a day and a large yard. Country life is best for this breed as they love to explore the world.
Happy, fun-loving and loyal, Goldens are one of the most popular breeds in the United States. They love people, so although they may bark when a stranger approaches your home, they would sooner invite a thief than scare them away. They weigh 50 to 80 kg and live about 11 years. They are moderate shedders and benefit from daily brushing. Because they are retrievers, they need at least two hours of rigorous exercise a day, either swimming, playing fetch, or running alongside you as you jog. Some do not do well being left alone and become destructive. Although they are extremely intelligent, they are bred to have more dominant traits that can make training difficult. With firm and consistent discipline, Goldens can make sophisticated pets, but inconsistent training will result in an out-of-control dog that will take about 4 to 5 years to settle.
The Labrador is the most popular breed in the United States. Their friendly, energetic and loyal dispositions make them excellent family pets. They are great with kids and enjoy the water, hunting, hauling, Frisbee – just about anything you love, they will love! Although their coat is short, they are moderate throwers. They can weigh 50 to 100 kg and live about 11 years. Like Goldens, they do well indoors, but need two hours of exercise a day or they can become destructive. Without proper exercise, labs can become overweight, which can lead to joint problems. Due to excessive breeding, American Labs are usually hyperactive and rarely submissive. These Workshops will be numerous and difficult to train for the first four to five years. Since Labs are the most popular breed, they are also one of the most popular breeds found in shelters – so check your local rescue before visiting a breeder.
Please understand that although I include Golden Retrievers and Labradors on this list, I tend to discourage families from purchasing them because they are over bred due to high demand and popularity. This overbreeding creates unhealthy and extreme overdogs, which then end up either: 1) euthanized due to expensive vet bills and 2) abandoned dogs in shelters due to over (and destructive) activity. There is no doubt that both breeds can be great family companions, but I encourage every family to consider other, equally wonderful breeds before Goldens and Labs. If you must have one, check your local shelter, rescue or petfinder.com. Keep in mind that even sheltered or rescued Goldens and Labs will likely be over-bred, so training and tolerance is essential. Together, we can reduce the popularity of this breed and end overbreeding.
For small to giant breeds, I recommend an American Mastiff. Calm, dignified and gentle, these dogs are patient and affectionate with children. They can weigh from 140 to 200 kg and live up to 12 years. As with most giant breeds, Mastiffs don’t need a lot of exercise and do well indoors or with a small yard. But due to their inactivity, they may become overweight. Mastiffs get along well with other dogs, but should be supervised around other types of animals. They can be very protective but rarely aggressive unless threatened. As puppies they can be rambunctious and clumsy because they grow quickly in their first year, but they mature quickly. And although they are one of the gentlest breeds, their size can be intimidating – so always keep your Mastiff on a leash in public.
Remember, there can be exceptions with each litter, so be sure to research the breeders and always insist on meeting the parents to determine the general temperament of the litter. With adoption, research reproduces the breed’s characteristics well before bringing a dog home. Even mixed breeds can be properly researched – just check each breed’s traits in their bloodline. For example, if you’re looking for a Labrador/Mastiff mix, a good rule of thumb is to combine traits from both breeds so you know what to expect.
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